I would like to be able to play a piano or keyboard and have what I play stored and reproduced as musical notation. Is that possible?
As others have mentioned a MIDI keyboard and notation application that understands MIDI is what you need.
But, two other important things to mention...
- You probably want to check whether/or how the notation application handles rhythm and quantizing, which is a kind of rhythmic precision in the capture of your playing. Even if a person plays with very, very good timing an unquantized rhythm will look crazy with dotted rhythms, ties, 64th notes, etc. Quantizing can do something like move rhythms to the closest sixteenth note, depending on the settings used.
- You will likely need to do some manual editing of the captured notation to do things like correct a rhythm, change an accidental, etc. Depending on what you're playing and the software you will probably need to deal with key signatures, meters, staves, etc. If you don't know how to notate music, you won't know how to proof read and correct the capture.
Software can help speed up the process of notation, but it can't substitute for not knowing how to notate music.
This is very feasible, and has been for a long time. You need three things:
- First a keyboard that captures the pressing down of keys. Today you would probably select a midi keyboard with USB connection. You may check this website to get an overview what is available in the market. Example of large webshop to get an overview of what is available, not a recommendation
- Secondly you need a computer. Most computers made the last ten years or even more will do. (And mouse, screen). Internet connection helps.
- The third part is a program that can do the translation. All of the three "professional" programs does this (Finale, Sibelius, Dorico). At least one of them has a free version (Dorico SE) which you simply download.The free program Musescore is another example that can do it. There are quite a few other programs available that can do similar things, almost all so called DAW-s can do it. (And I have probably forgotten a dozen or more programs).
My general experience is that it can take a bit of work to create a good looking score from my fumbling on the keyboard, but that is me.
Many MIDI keyboards have built-in recording and playback facilities, for example this one. Back in the day when PCs were still desk-size monsters and mobile phones only made phone calls, this was the main way you got to record what you played.
These days though, most manufacturers are actually taking that feature out. No-one needs it these days because everyone has a phone or PC they can connect instead, and your phone or PC has way more recording capacity than anything that would be built into the keyboard.
So a far better approach as a beginner is to find a keyboard which plugs into whatever device you're going to be using, and get some software to do the recording. Almost every keyboard these days will come with a bundle of stuff to do that, which will get you started.
This solution might involve a bit of a learning curve, but there is some software called Lilypond for typesetting music-notation, and it has a GUI frontend program called Denemo. In Denemo you can play midi into it and generate beautiful/professional scores. Lilypond/Denemo have an intimidating number of features.
Here are a couple of demo videos of someone using a midi-keyboard to enter notes:
- I've used Lilypond but haven't actually tried Denemo
- The workflow is a bit clunky-looking
- I am not affiliated with either of these programs in any way.
Other software with similar features:
- Finale can import MIDI files but you can't type in MIDI directly.
- I believe even the free version of Avid's Sibelius software does support entering MIDI directly.